If asked “What’s your perfect day?”, I wonder what your answer would be. My daughter (Daisy, 11) responded with “Flying to Kefalonia for dinner and some sunshine”. Then ensued the debate as to whether it was possible to fit that into a day and how much of a challenge it would be! I wasn’t totally surprised — we have had a couple of wonderful family holidays there and all very much fell in love with the Island.
In my busy run up to Christmas, my response was much more basic: a lay in with a nice cup of tea, a leisurely brunch out and some friends around the dinner table in the evening. Nothing fancy, just relaxed. Undeniably, it revolves around food — as did all the other members of the family when asked the same question. None of us can refute the fact that in part it’s simply because we enjoy good food. We like trying different foods from different places, and we enjoy having fun trying to cook different dishes ourselves, with varying levels of success.
But, it goes beyond that.
My parents have a pine dining table that they’ve had for over thirty years. The chairs around it have been glued back together more times than anyone can remember. The table is not fancy: it’s scratched, dented and if we’re blunt about it, it’s not very fashionable.
Last year, they had a new kitchen/diner installed. They considered replacing the table and chairs as part of their grand plans, but in the end they didn’t. When asked why, Mum pointed out that around that table was where my brother announced he’d chosen his career path in Nursing. Around that table, my husband and I first told them that we wanted to get married. It’s where I announced we were expecting our first child. It’s where we’ve sat and cried at the loss of loved ones, where friends have gathered, extended families celebrated and mourned. In that moment, I realised that the legacy had been passed on. My dining table, had become the same — the centre of our home.
It’s the one point in the day to day of our busy lives of work, kids taxi driving, business building and family life, that we stop. It may only be 20 minutes before someone is off out of the door again, but it’s our time to press pause and be together — to report on our days, to share our worries and celebrate our achievements. We’re meeting our basic needs — yes, to eat, but to be in community, in relationship, not standing alone.
Around our table we sat whilst digesting the news that my Dad has Leukemia. Around the table, we celebrated the kids school reports and exam results. Around the table, we deliberated, discussed and prayed about a tricky situation our son was facing at school. Around the table, we gather with friends — it’s where dreams have been born, ideas grown, tears mopped up and hugs dished out.
That may paint a cosy postcard picture of a traditional family, around the table in front of a roaring open fire. It’s not like that — everyone knows those moments are saved for film sets — the very rare occasions that the kids aren’t over tired and being fussy eaters, in combination with when a parent hasn’t had a stressful day at work, the housework isn’t stacked up, there isn’t homework waiting to be done and the dog isn’t in need of a bath, feeding and walk! They are few and far between in this house, that’s for sure.
More often than not, our table has the cutlery thrown on it rather than set out nicely, there is some vegetable or other that gets a face pulled at it by one of the junior members of the house, we spend half of the meal discussing arrangements for the next day and whose turn it is to do the washing up. Often there are last minute, extra people to feed — so dinners can be an interesting mix of whatever I could find in the fridge/freezer. But I love it. I love that we meet there, in the chaos, in the muddles. I love the raw honesty that comes out around the table. The moments of vulnerability.
So many of those moments have been lost — I suspect because social media makes us think that if we invite someone over, it has to be a perfect roast dinner with all the trimmings, the house has to be spick and span and everyone has to be on their best behaviour. We’re all too busy to try and achieve the unachievable! So we don’t do it. We don’t open our doors, extend the invitation, risk the vulnerability. Yet, it means we miss so much. We miss those opportunities to deepen friendships, we miss the chance to share a dream. We miss the chance to offer our support, to stem loneliness and offer encouragement.
We miss the chance to be what we were created to be.
So — whether over the festive period, or beyond, my family table will remain, with its dents and stains. Whether for a ten minute lunch or a three hour leisurely meal, fish fingers and chips or posh nosh. We will gather, with our imperfections, our woes, our hopes and our dreams and keep on growing.
And that’s just it for us as The Family Table. A desire to tell the stories of life that connect with our true humanity. Stories of hope, loss, dreams and justice. Stories that go beyond our need for vacant entertainment and passionless engagement in an over stimulated world. Stories that speak into the very heart of our everyday — like those told around the family table.
A creative agency, rooted in family values.
We tell better stories through music and film.